Sporting world shocked by charges against inspirational athlete Oscar Pistorius

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News that South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius had been charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Thursday came as a shock to nearly everyone who had heard the runner’s inspirational story of his struggle to become the first double-amputee ever to compete at the Olympics.

Pistorius, now 26, was born without fibulas and and had to have his legs amputated below the knee at only eleven months old. That didn’t stop him from competing in rugby, tennis, and water polo while growing up in Pretoria, before being introduced to running in after suffering a knee injury.

Fueled by his competitive spirit and riding on his new racing “blades,” fitted for him by prosthetist Francois Vanderwatt, Pistorius went on to win gold in the 200m at the Paralympic Games in Athens only months after starting to race, and then finished sixth in at the 400m able-bodied national championships the next year.

He won the 100m, 200m, and 400m Paralympic world championships in 2006, and then set his sights on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. One problem: Pistorius had a number of detractors, including world record holder Michael Johnson, who suggested that his disability was actually an advantage, since the runner raced on specially engineer carbon fiber limbs.

“I know Oscar well, and he knows my position; my position is that because we don’t know for sure whether he gets an advantage from the prosthetics that he wears it is unfair to the able-bodied competitors…

“Oscar sees no limits; he has no fear when competing against able-bodied athletes. So it is hard for people to understand and to accept when you start to talk about whether or not he may have the advantage.”

The IAAF, track’s governing body, agreed, and banned any device using springs, wheels, or any other device that might provide an advantage in 2007, marking Pistorius ineligible for the 2008 Games.

Pistorius eventually won a reprieve with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April 2008, which, after a two-day hearing in Switzerland, determined that Pistorius held no advantage and was allowed to compete against able-bodied runners.

“Oscar’s done so much for Paralympic sport and I’m grateful for all the eyes he has opened to what Paralympic sport can be,” British Paralympic gold medal sprinter Johnnie Peacock, who started racing after seeing Pistorius on TV, told the London Telegraph.

The “Blade Runner,” as he’s now known, didn’t qualify for the Olympics in 2008, but was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people after winning the right to compete, and signed sponsorship deals with Oakley, Nike, Thierry Mugler, and running blade manufacturer Ossur, in all totaling nearly $5 million.

Now able to compete against the world’s best, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to win an able-bodied world championship medal when his 4×400 relay team took silver in Daegu in 2011. And despite failing to run the necessary Olympic “A” standard qualification time twice, the South African Olympic Committee announced last July 4 that Pistorius had been selected for the Olympic team for the 400m and 4x400m relay.

Two months later, on August 4, 2012, Pistorius became the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympics. And better than that, he took second in his preliminary heat with a time of 45.44 seconds, a season best that put him into the semifinals.

“It just felt really magical,” Pistorius said. “If I could predict what it would feel like or imagine beyond my wildest dreams, this was probably 10 times that. To step out in front of a crowd this massive, it’s a mind-blowing experience,” he added. “I’ve had support in the last couple of days like I have never felt before.”

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Pistorius was knocked out in the semis, finishing eighth in the race. After the event, the South African symbolically exchanged racing bibs with Kirani James of Grenada, who eventually went on to win the gold.

“This whole experience was amazing… to step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Pistorius said after that race. “That opportunity to come here once again and finish today and not yesterday is a dream come true.”

The inspirational athlete was asked to carry the South African flag at the Olympics Closing Ceremony as a tribute to his struggle and success, and went on to earn two more Paralympic golds a month later.

Kristi Yamaguchi tells Nancy Kerrigan to ‘break a leg’ on ‘Dancing with the Stars’

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Kristi Yamaguchi told Nancy Kerrigan to “break a leg” on her “Dancing with the Stars” debut in an innocent good-luck tweet between friends that generated plenty of reaction.

“So excited for you @NancyAKerrigan ! Can’t wait to see you grace that ballroom floor, break a leg! #DWTS,” was posted on Yamaguchi’s account Monday morning.

It generated more than 6,000 likes, 3,000 retweets and 1,000 replies, many referencing the horrible attack on Kerrigan before the 1994 U.S. Championships (where Kerrigan’s knee was bruised, but not broken).

Yamaguchi’s spokeswoman says in a statement that “Kristi loves Nancy” and “no ill will was intended,” according to The Associated Press.

The tweet conjured memories of T-shirts sold leading up to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics with the words “Harding-Kerrigan” on the front and “Norway ’94, Break a Leg!!!” on the back, reported by major media 23 years ago.

Yamaguchi and Kerrigan shared world championships and Olympic podiums in 1991 and 1992 (Yamaguchi winning both times; Kerrigan with bronze).

They remain friends. Kerrigan said she spoke with Yamaguchi, a past “Dancing with the Stars” winner, about the experience, according to TeamUSA.org.

“I said to Kristi, ‘You’ve seen me at shows, Kris, how demanding is it?’” Kerrigan said, according to the report. “She said it’s very demanding, but you have to do it. She’s like, ‘You’ve been through worse, you have to do it, it’s such a great experience.’”

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VIDEO: Nancy Kerrigan’s first ‘Dancing with the Stars’ waltz

World Figure Skating Championships broadcast schedule

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NBC Sports will air coverage of every event at the World Figure Skating Championships starting Wednesday in Helsinki, Finland.

The U.S. could have its best world team in more than a decade, led by 17-year-old phenom Nathan Chen, 2016 World silver medalist Ashley Wagner and the past two world silver medalists in ice dance.

Results in Helsinki are key, given they determine how many entries each nation gets for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

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Chen, the youngest U.S. champion in 51 years, has the highest total score in the world this season, achieved at the most recent top-level event, February’s Four Continents Championships at the 2018 Olympic venue in South Korea.

He’s a threat to become the first U.S. men’s medalist since Evan Lysacek took gold in 2009. The field is perhaps the deepest of all time, featuring Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain and three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada.

Wagner’s goal is to make the podium against a women’s field that includes Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva, trying to become the first woman to repeat as world champion since Michelle Kwan in 2001.

In ice dance, 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada are the favorites in their first worlds appearance since 2013. Two U.S. couples, Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, finished second and third at worlds last season and are again medal contenders in Helsinki.

In pairs, Canada has the two-time reigning world champions in Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, but they were beaten at their last two international events. Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim hope to become the first U.S. pair to finish in the top six since 2011.

All broadcast coverage on NBC and NBCSN will stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

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MORE: Scimeca Knierim details life-threatening condition

Date Time (ET) Program Network
Wednesday, March 29 4:40 a.m. Women’s Short Icenetwork.com*
12 p.m. Women’s Short NBCSN, Streaming
2 p.m. Pairs Short NBCSN, Streaming
Thursday, March 30 6:10 a.m. Men’s Short Icenetwork.com*
11 a.m. Men’s Short NBCSN, Streaming
1 p.m. Pairs Free NBCSN, Streaming
Friday, March 31 5 a.m. Short Dance Icenetwork.com*
1 p.m. Women’s Free NBCSN, Streaming
8 p.m. Short Dance NBCSN, Streaming
Saturday, April 1 4:50 a.m. Men’s Free Icenetwork.com*
10:35 a.m. Free Dance Icenetwork.com*
12:30 p.m. Men’s Free NBCSN, Streaming
2:30 p.m. Free Dance NBCSN, Streaming
8 p.m. Women’s Free NBC, Streaming
Sunday, April 2 2 p.m. Exhibition Gala NBCSN, Streaming
Sunday, April 9 3 p.m. Recap NBC, Streaming

*For Icenetwork.com subscribers.